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Impact Weapons: Escrima Stick or Expandable Baton

Martial Arts & Weapons

When it comes to self-defense, I like to train in systems that are practical, especially when it comes to martial arts that train in weapons use. You probably don’t carry around samurai swords, spears, or nunchucks with you, but you might carry a pocket knife or stick.

For years I have studied combat arts using sticks, such as Escrima and Arnis. As a former military and federal agent, I also carried an expandable baton for 18 years.

The good thing about a stick is that you can find almost any stick-like tool and use the techniques you learn to defend yourself effectively. If you are able to carry an expandable baton (it is illegal in some states) it is a quite formidable weapon as well. But which one should you choose between the two?

I bet the majority of you would opt for the baton because it is cool looking and you have seen it used effectively in action movies. Witnessing the baton being whipped out so it can expand to its full length with a distinct locking sound seems really awesome. I even thought so when I carried it for years.

Compare that with seeing a plain Escrima stick at the ready without dramatic sound effects would seem dull in comparison.

However, the essence of these impact weapons does not lie in their initial execution but with their purpose. They are meant to stun, hit, break, stab, jab, crush, restrain, and/or control your adversary.

The Downside of Expandable Batons

For the stick and baton to perform their tasks, they have first to be functional. And to properly function, they have to always be reliable. This is how, in my opinion, the Escrima stick is superior to the expandable baton.

The stick is a solid piece of cylindrically shaped material while the latter is of similar design with moving parts. The more mechanically complex a device, the more likely it will malfunction. Trust me; I have experienced malfunctions carrying them during my 18 years.

The baton has to have sufficient angular momentum for the tip to extend fully and lock in place. I have tried locking it out on some occasions, and it either did not fully extend or did not lock.

I was also an instructor at the special investigator’s academy and at each organization that I worked for. During training, I would have agents practice whipping their department issued ASP brand expandable batons in front of me to no avail.

Their 26-inch impact weapon would often not expand at all, possibly due to lack of angular momentum, or the tip was stuck inside the handle or both. After 2 or 3 attempts it finally expanded. Perhaps they needed lubrication on a periodic basis.

What is the percentage of law enforcement personnel in general who actually takes the time and effort to maintain their baton properly? I will tell you from experience that was quite low, even for me.

Your expandable baton MUST work every single time in law enforcement and in self-defense. There may not be time to keep trying to get the damned thing opened.

Another flaw with the baton is its mechanical integrity. I have tried many types of batons from many different vendors. Let me tell you, even though they may LOOK the same the quality IS NOT the same. I once tried two Taiwanese 16″ and 21″ expandable steel batons on hard surfaces like concrete and metal only to have them retract back to their closing position.

The way I close my batons is by slamming the head onto the hard ground. This is pretty much the only way to close them. These hard impacts resulted in the joints becoming loose. Once this happens, the batons are permanently damaged. My ASP duty baton is a lot sturdier and more reliable but has failed to lock out or stay locked out as well.

Here is the thing, you will not encounter this problem with a solid piece of Escrima stick.

The Anatomy of Impact Weapons

One aspect of the effectiveness of an impact weapon is its hitting power. Sticks and batons are obviously designed differently.

Sticks have density, whether made of wood or some type of synthetic material that is evenly distributed due to its cylindrical design. Therefore, the center of gravity will be at its length’s midpoint.

Simply put, the stick feels balanced, and therefore you can maximize its hitting potential with proper technique.

In contrast, batons have the bulkiest and heaviest part of its mass toward the handle end, making it bottom heavy. Thus, even when fully extended, the baton’s striking power does not reach full potential since the center of gravity is located near the handle. This is even more evident for longer lengths.

My 26″ duty ASP does not impact as hard as hard as my 21″ Escrima stick when fully swung. I can feel more strain on my wrist when I practice with my ASP.

If you learn to use an Escrima stick, better yet, a pair of Escrima sticks, you can apply the same techniques to any type of stick you can get your hands on. This is a good skill to have since you can find a stick almost anywhere and you can learn to use one EFFECTIVELY quite easily.

I say “effectively” because I have seen many people try to wield a stick in fights and they look awkward, and their techniques are not very efficient. With a little practice, you can become very proficient in the basics pretty fast.

Final Thoughts

Having made these arguments, for me, the Escrima stick is the clear winner. Its simplicity lends to its practicality. There are useful tips to consider when owning such impact weapons.

Practitioners of Cabales Serrada Escrima, as an example, usually utilize sticks with lengths from 16″ to 24″ with 21″ being the norm. With shorter ones, you gain speed for power; with longer ones, you gain power for speed.

From my experience, one of the best sticks is made from laminated hardwood; it has the proper weight, durability, and ruggedness. Dried rattan (which I use in practice), more brittle synthetics and even expensive hardwoods tend to break under repeated hard use.

The choice is yours of course. I own and carry both in my car. I recommend you do what is legal and comfortable for you. But having the ability to carry and use either will be a great skill for you to have.

Carry Laws for Batons

The following is a comprehensive compilation of the laws on the civilian carry of batons, also called nightsticks or Billy clubs, in each state of the US.

The baton is a roughly cylindrical club weapon used predominantly by law enforcement, corrections, and security personnel as a less-than-lethal measure.

This includes three major variants:

  • Straight stick. – The oldest and simplest form, this is simply a stick 1-3 feet long, usually made of one material and having a grip at one or both ends. Some are formed to have a tapering shape so that more weight is at the striking end.
  • Side-handled – A design based approximately on the Japanese tonfa, this is a cylinder with a second handle perpendicular to the main shaft located above the grip. Sometimes called a “PR-24”, though this is a commercial model name that simply fell into popular use.
  • Expandable – Also called a telescopic baton, this type consists of 2 or 3 shafts that slide into one another to reduce its size when not in use. Mechanisms vary; some lock open with friction, some use a ball-bearing system, and some are spring-loaded. Sometimes called an ASP, but this is actually the name of a company that makes a popular product line.

Legend for this List

  • Legal – Carry is permitted either explicitly, or any restriction is completely absent.
  • Illegal – Explicitly prohibited.
  • Vague – Law contains ambiguous language and no case law or Attorney General decision exists. See Comment.
  • With CHP – If having Concealed Handgun Permit affects legality (actual name of a firearm carry permit varies by state)
  • Other Permit – If a permit or certification other than a CHP can be obtained to carry.

NOTE: This list covers carry by people who are neither law enforcement or corrections officers, in public places away from one’s home, and does not cover carry on school property, government property, airports, or military installations.

This list also does not cover local laws at the county or city level. This list may not be up to date when you read it, so please check in your area.

State Open Carry Concealed Carry With CHP Other Permit Comment
Alabama Legal Legal N/A N/A
Alaska Legal Legal (21+ years old) N/A N/A
Arizona Legal Legal (21+ years old) N/A N/A
Arkansas Vague Vague Yes Yes Technically only illegal “with a purpose to employ as a weapon against a person.”
California Illegal Illegal No Yes
Colorado Legal Legal N/A N/A
Connecticut Illegal Illegal No No On duty, security guards may carry a baton.
Delaware Legal Illegal Yes No
District of Columbia Legal Vague No No Illegal to conceal “any deadly or dangerous weapon.” Similar cases suggest general hostility to carry.
Florida Legal Illegal Yes No
Georgia Legal Legal N/A N/A
Hawaii Illegal Illegal No No Fish bats don’t count unless carried as a weapon
Idaho Legal Vague Yes No Illegal to conceal any “deadly weapon”, but doesn’t apply outside a city if 18+ years old or on private property with owner’s permission.
Illinois Vague Vague No ? Illegal to carry a Billy “with intent to use the same unlawfully against another” or in a government building
Indiana Legal Legal N/A N/A
Iowa Legal Vague Yes No Illegal to conceal any “dangerous weapon,” which is very broadly applicable
Kansas Legal Illegal No No Illegal to conceal a “Billy.”
Kentucky Legal Illegal Yes No
Louisiana Legal Vague No No Illegal to conceal any “instrumentality customarily used or intended for probable use as a dangerous weapon.”
Maine Legal Vague No No
Maryland Legal Vague Yes No Could be a “dangerous or deadly weapon,” but isn’t named explicitly. Law has self-defense provision. Similar cases suggest the state must prove criminal intent.
Massachusetts Legal Legal N/A N/A Only prohibited when arrested on a warrant or during a breach of peace
Michigan Vague Vague No No Illegal to carry with intent to use unlawfully against another “any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument.”
Minnesota Vague Vague No No Illegal to possess any “dangerous article or substance for the purpose of being used unlawfully as a weapon against another”
Mississippi Legal Legal N/A N/A
Missouri Legal Vague Yes No Illegal to conceal “any other weapon readily capable of lethal use.”
Montana Legal Illegal Yes No
Nebraska Legal Vague No No Illegal to conceal “any other deadly weapon”, but burden lies with the state. Law has self-defense provision.
Nevada Illegal Illegal No Yes Can obtain written permission from the county sheriff
New Hampshire Legal Legal N/A N/A
New Jersey Illegal Illegal No Yes Guards with CHP and training certification are permitted to carry
New Mexico Vague Vague Yes No Illegal to carry “any other type of deadly weapon”.
New York Illegal Illegal No No
North Carolina Legal Vague No No
North Dakota Legal Illegal Yes No
Ohio Legal Vague No No
Oklahoma Illegal Illegal No No No exception noted for private security
Oregon Legal Legal N/A N/A
Pennsylvania Vague Vague No No Illegal to possess “other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose”. Case law indicates self-defense is not a “common lawful purpose”.
Rhode Island Illegal Illegal No No No exception noted for private security
South Carolina Legal Vague No No Illegal to conceal “a deadly weapon usually used for the infliction of personal injury”.
South Dakota Legal Legal N/A N/A
Tennessee Illegal Illegal No Yes
Texas Illegal Illegal No Yes Some exceptions for trained or certified security officers.
Utah Legal Legal N/A N/A
Vermont Legal Legal N/A N/A
Virginia Legal Vague N/A N/A Spring-loaded baton is illegal, but could possibly be extended to any “weapon of like kind”.
Washington Legal Vague No No Illegal to conceal “other dangerous weapon”.
West Virginia Legal Legal N/A N/A
Wisconsin Legal Illegal Yes No
Wyoming Legal Vague Yes No Illegal to conceal a “deadly weapon”.

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34 thoughts on “Impact Weapons: Escrima Stick or Expandable Baton”

  1. Hi Diane. Right where your forefinger would be when holding the knife, there is a jagged piece of metal that is the lock for the blade. It’s not easy, but to close the blade, you need to use your thumb to move that lock. On my knife, I use my right thumb to push it to the left and while holding it, I carefully fold the knife. Again, it’s not very easy, but that is how you close the knife. Good Luck!!

  2. I find this interesting, I teach my young wife and our 10 year old how to defend themselves and one of the tactics I have shown them is how to use a weapon I made for them,a 1in pvc about 18 in. long filled with lead. this stick would be even better for them as for the weight.

  3. Lots of technical information on the construction and legality of the stick, but nothing on techniques or methods of use. It was my impression that this article would focus on that aspect of the sticks.

  4. Have you ever seen or used the Cobra spring baton, with its weighted tip? I have carried one open and concealed, for years. Much more effective than a collapsible all metal one.

  5. I have taken formal instructions and classes in Escrima and Serrada. I own pairs of both hardwood and rattan sticks. I prefer the rattan over hardwood for speed and weight. It is true the rattan can split, but if it does it can double as a cutting and slicing weapon.

  6. Good article. I had been debating about an expandable baton, and this article settled it for me.

    Are there any good video courses on fighting with sticks, or is this a skill that needs to be taught in person?

  7. To Diane Kleven.
    To close the Striker, look for
    a short serrated lock lever
    inside where the blade comes out.
    It’s near the top of the handle were the blade goes when
    closed. Press down on it and the blade should fold shut.
    Hope this helps.

  8. The Arkansas Supreme Court recently ruled that Arkansas is a Constitutional Carry state.
    Therefore, a license is NOT required for both Open Carry and Concealed Carry.
    You might want to amend your list.

  9. Dianne their is a small safety under the front of the blade to collapse it,easy one handed open until you skill it two hands to secure the blade back in the housing,hope this helps 🙂


  11. To Diane Klevin – notice the slot in which the blade came out from? There is another piece of metal that is sitting just beside the blade when it’s folded, & having a slightly bent or curved shape to it, it acts like somewhat of a tensioned spring, and moves into place where the blade vacates when unfolded. That piece of metal now acts as a locking stop to the blade, so it cant fold back to a closed position unwantedly. So what needs to happen, is for you to push that piece of metal towards the other side of the knife wall, within that blade slot area, if that makes sense. When you push it, basically away from you or down, or whatever, that allows the blade to fall back inwards. So, in order for u to get it back to a folded closed position, you should be pushing that metal spring piece simultaneously as u push the back edge, the unsharpened side, of the blade, directing it back towards and into the slot that it initially “retracted” out from. Does that make sense?

  12. So, when u said that in your experience, one of the best sticks is laminated hardwood, how would one construct that? Rip a bunch of thin strips, maybe 1/16” or 1/8” thick each, by 1”-2” wide, laminating them and then shaping the stick, via sanding belts or something, perhaps after creating its general shape by cutting it w/a bandsaw or something? Do you think some Baltic birch plywood would suffice as well, having 13 plies in a 3/4” sheet? How did YOU make them, or how did others make them for you, if u have acquired that knowledge? Thanks in advance, Thanks for sharing this information with us. Aloha

  13. Years ago I investigated Martial Arts weapons, and I concluded the plain Staff Weapons like the Bo and Jo were the only really useful ones. Looking at the strange moves in Shaolin Kung-Fu, apparently these were actually invented to enable the monks to defend themselves against wild animals, not bandits. The original Shaolin Monastery was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by forests, containing wolves, tigers and suchlike. I once saw a David Attenborough program when he mentioned he could probably frighten lions away if he had a big stick. So I guess the Shaolin Staff might actually defend you against a tiger.

  14. Thank you very much and I would like to kindly ask You which stick fighting art can be learned in the minimum amount of time and also be used with utmost efficiency in self defence?
    I thank You in advance for the answer,
    Dan-Tudor Ionescu, Bucharest, Romania

  15. Derek – I have MS and use a Canadian crutch (forearm crutch). There are many other disabled, or elderly, who are similarity ‘armed’ – but may appear to be easy prey for bad actors. Do you have suggestions we can use?

    Fight or flight: Flight is not an option for us. If we encounter trouble, we have to fight (or become a victim).

    Mobility & stability are the biggest constraint. Teach us how to stand (stable base), strike with power and recover before we fall.

    First strike would probably be from the ground to the outside of the knee, or up to the crotch. I have a 4′ metal rod ready to use, I just need to know how.

  16. I live in NJ where fighting sticks of any kind are illegal. I noticed that it is illegal in all of the “blue” states, and even some states where you can carry a firearm, which was a surprise to me. However, due to that restriction, I always carry a cane and a “monkey fist”.

  17. A sturdy solid cane w/curved handle is an openly valid, highly useful protective device… Technically it is a walking/standing assistance device, thud medical help in nature… Tips on use in dire situations could be useful…

  18. Hello, Do you have any instruction’s video’s on the use of a walking cane or stick as a weapon? With my advancing age I have considered attempting to create a walking staff similar to what a shepherd could be seen to use, but with a difference. I would like it to be fairly light, …perhaps stainless steel, wherein a person could possibly deflect a machette wielding individual with the follow through advantage of hitting them in the chest or face with the top end of the walking stick that may or may not have a crook styled handle. My idea also expand into other areas such as having a mini co2 charged canister within the stick having something like wasp spray so as to spray the eyes of an attacker etc. At any rate, I live in a potentially dangerous area in a foreign country along with my advancing age,, … I feel the need of methods of defense that don’t have the appearance of being a overt weapon. I occasionally carry a smallish Swiss army knife on a ring having a few keys, … this in turn is connected to another key ring having its own normally used keys using lawnmower pull-string . The distance between the rings is about 10 to 12 inches. This allows for a quick swing at arms, hands, face, shins or even either side of the spine on their back. After the first blow, or simply a deterrent against further overtures of aggression … I swing it in a figure eight pattern in front of me. Its also useful if someone has gotten you in a head-lock from behind, … if available, simply swing up and over one’s head hitting the attacker in his back with the hope that he momentarily drops his grip enabling to spin-out or go for his shins or even a repeat for his back. With practice using a small bag of sand in a leather pouch, you could even aim for the assailant’s head while he has you in a head-lock while standing up. You catch my drift, … with practice you reduce the risk of taking your own ear out in a ‘ring’ who’s loudness you’ve never experienced before. Ha. So yes, please send you any specific information in respect to walking caine’s and the like, would be most grateful. Morris

  19. Walk tall and carry a big stick. I say two foot of hardwood or solid steel screw the expandable shit unless you plan on throwing between an adversaries eyes

  20. the comparison between ;collapsible baton and Askarima stick or simply a wooden or bamboo or broom stick , break into two . This is the first article , I came across for the first time . Laws against , collapsible baton , is real . A simple looking stick , the effectiveness lies in the hand of the competent , trained user . Excellent article . The first article which make me addicted ,( good addiction ) to the Fight First , is ; DO YOU HAVE BAD INTENTION ? My favorite ; the survival mind set is an aggressive one ,Most of us are conditioned to be Nonviolent . A member of parliament and medical doctor , was brutally , stab multiple times at home , in Jamaica , quite recently .. Medical doctors mindset were conditioned , to save limbs and lives , without discriminating , even your enemies . Since , I am not a US citizen, to be entitled to your , high quality , unique , free gifts , but still I am greatly indebted to you for all the life , survival skills , you are imparting upon us . .Some comments made by some elderly with the strong will , and physical power is a motivating force for me . THANK YOU .

  21. aung tha thein I am so glad you enjoyed my article and that it made you addicted to Fight Fast. I really try to make the articles entertaining for all of you. Keep reading, lots more to come.

  22. RB you are correct about the cane. I learned to use one for defense while earning my black belt in Hapkido. I will prepare and article on this in the near future…just for you.

  23. Dan-Tudor Ionescu you can learn the basics very easily. Yes there are advanced techniques, but there are about 5-12 basic strikes you need to know. I teach them in my Special Agent Combatives Course, but you can choose escrima, Kali, or Arnis, they are all pretty much the same. You can get a video to learn the basics, but you might want to spend a little time in class to spar with others and get a feel for the techniques.